I graduated from the University of Nottingham in 2011 with a BA Hons Human Geography. I was excited to get out into the world and start my career. So I did. I found myself a job in a law firm, spent some time travelling around Peru and even tried my hand at adult figure skating.
I wasn’t happy.
So I quit my job, embarked on a new path and discovered a lot about myself. If you’re at a crossroad with your career, you might be understandably nervous. Here are five things I wish someone had told me...
1. Pursue a career that you love
It may sound cliché but I can’t stress this point enough. Upon graduation, I was so full of possibility and couldn’t wait to explore the world outside the confines of the Hallward Library.
It wasn’t long, however, until I found myself working a job that felt quite meaningless and futile to me. It’s said that boredom and unfulfillment can arise when our learning curves flatten, and this job was the epitome of monotonous and tedious activity. I was really rather miserable and it was beginning to affect my mental health. I wanted out.
Changing careers is one of the best decisions I’ve ever made…
2. You don’t have to know what you want
I remember that uncomfortable feeling when family and friends would ask what I’m going to do with my degree. All I could say was “I really don’t know yet,” when all I really wanted was to prove that I was going somewhere and that my degree was worth it.
If you find yourself in a similar dilemma, remember you’re not alone. I would encourage you to be okay with not knowing. Beyond that, I urge you to take action in the face of uncertainty. More is learned by engaging with a potential new career than sitting back and contemplating what you may or may not enjoy doing. My boring job was critical to finding what I really wanted to do because I learned what I didn’t want.
Furthermore, if you don’t choose something, you’ll find yourself stuck trying to make the “right” choice indefinitely.
As Elizabeth Gilbert states:
“Follow your passion, if you have one… If not, follow your curiosity. It might just lead to your passion.”
I ended up following my curiosity all the way to New York.
3. Bold moves + team support = big dreams
Just before I quit the job I described earlier, I hired a Life and Leadership Coach. During our coaching, I started work in the education sector. I also became curious about the personal growth aspects of our coaching work and found myself wanting to learn more about it.
I signed up to do a 12-month intensive Life and Leadership Coach Training program with Accomplishment Coaching. Part of the training meant I had to fly into New York for a two day training event, once every month.
Crazy, I know.
I was inspired by the perceived impossibility of the commute and the challenge that it presented for my own personal growth in order to create it.
A challenge it was. However, I wouldn’t have been able to do it without the support from my coach nor my team of equally supportive co-participants. Here’s what my team provided for me:
They held me accountable to my commitment especially in the lowest of moments
They encouraged me to step outside my comfort zone and supported me when I did so
They acted as a non-judgmental sanctuary for all I was going through
They inspired me with ideas and their own journeys of growth
We all want to be part of something bigger than ourselves and historically tribal or team culture was necessary for survival. I encourage you to create your own team and to call on them for support in the pursuit of your dream.
4. Relationships are the foundation to success
The training was designed to help us develop skills as a coach, while helping us to personally transform in a way that removed our biggest blocks to authentically connecting with those around us. One of the blocks I encountered was the perception that I wasn’t good enough, along with the desire to strive for my own version of perfection. Neither possible nor empowering for anyone. I worked on this throughout the year knowing that it would determine the success of my coaching relationships.
Furthermore, as I began to grow and change, I realised how greatly this paradigm influenced all other areas of my life. It had a direct impact on relationships with my family, friends and work colleagues. It had stopped me from being confident enough to give my voice, skills and opinion, which greatly impacted my effectiveness as a team player and leader. Throughout the year, I practised shifting my mind set to one where it was more possible for me to step up. My confidence grew.
More importantly, I learned the necessity of connecting with others for my overall health, well-being and life satisfaction. As one of my favourite influencers, Dr Brené Brown states:
“Connection is why we’re here. It’s what gives purpose and meaning to our lives.”
How many times have you read that one of the top regrets of those who face the end of their lives is that they had wished they’d spent more time connecting with those that mattered?
Therefore, if you want to be successful, however you define that, ‘work on’ your relationships.
5. Perfection is a myth
Throughout your life and career, I believe it is important to continue to learn, while remembering that no matter how much you grow, you will never be perfect. A year out of coach training and a number of client hours under my belt, I’m still working on all of the above. I also know that in 20 years time, I still will be.
There will always be new ways to grow and being as imperfect as I am is actually one of my biggest assets. There are times when I forget this, but that’s okay. We’re our own hardest critics and we often have high standards that are impossible to live up to, but that’s okay too.
As we change, our dreams change. Enjoy the ride, enjoy the journey and learn from the experience.
The best years of your life are not behind you.